This I Believe

Michelle - Bellefontaine, Ohio
Entered on February 15, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I have been passionate about hiking since I was a young. There is something intriguing about climbing a mountain of rock. Challenging myself to climb a dangerous trail helped me pinpoint some of my beliefs. I discovered that I believe in sweat, dirt, and pain. I believe in losing all inhibitions in the middle of the wilderness to climb to the top of a mountain.

In Acadia National Park this past summer, my two sisters and I followed a trail that had signs warning that it should be attempted only by “experienced climbers”. At first we crawled over boulders and had no trouble with the trail. The warning signs seemed misleading, but soon we reached the challenge. From this point to the top of the mountain, we climbed metal rungs that had been stapled into a vertical cliff. It was not easy. In many places rungs were missing or were too far from one another. The drop below us was haunting. My little sister’s fear of heights was rekindled as we crawled around a man lying next to his own vomit on a narrow ledge. We climbed hundreds of rungs, up and up, with occasional ledges in the rock for quick rests.

As we climbed together, my sisters and I each had a different experience. My younger sister, Kelly, shook with fear and frequently asked how we would ever find our parents. Christy, the oldest and shortest, happily identified trees and wild grasses around us while she stretched to reach the rungs above her. I enjoyed the climb and the introspective mood that it put me in.

I felt bold, confident, tough, and daring. It felt good to use my body to its full potential, even as my legs became sore and my arms grew tired. I felt energized and enjoyed the rush I was experiencing (especially when I looked down below me). There, climbing rungs on a cliff, I pushed my body to its limit and felt I was accomplishing something big. It was liberating. There was no need to monitor my display of emotions. Nature does not care about how I conduct myself. The risks involved in the climb did not matter. I was on an emotional high. The adrenaline pumping through my dirt, blood, and sweat-covered body gave me motivation, courage, and a new perspective on the structures imposed upon us by society.

As we climbed the final rungs to the top, everything changed. Christy, Kelly, and I were happily reunited with our parents who had taken a smoother trail up the mountain. After the hard climb, it was satisfying to take in the amazing view in the comfort of nature and my family. My muscles relaxed. The hard work was over and we casually hiked down the other side of the mountain.

I can now identify that I believe in exerting myself to the point of exhaustion. I believe in forgetting the concerns pressed upon us by society and releasing myself in nature. While hiking, I can wear my smelly tennis shoes. The rocks do not care how I smell. The mountain does not expect me to be polite. In the wilderness, my gender is never considered as an indication of how well I will perform. Peeing behind a rock at the top of a mountain is freeing. I believe in letting loose. I believe in the freedom that I experience while hiking.